Unlike many financial institutions, VSECU is not run by outside investors; we’re run by our members. This makes us uniquely positioned to respond to what Vermonters need from their lenders. That’s why we’ve put a strong focus on investing in renewable energy. Our members know that investing in efficient renewable energy supports Vermont and our local economy.
Energy Action Network recently released its 2018 Annual Progress Report, which adds further evidence for why these investments are the right thing to do for Vermonters, our environment and our economy.
For instance, supporting Vermonters’ investments in renewable energy supports homegrown Vermont renewable-energy businesses, which now employ almost 19,000 Vermonters — 6 percent of our workforce. That’s the highest share of any state’s renewable-energy employment in the nation.
Supporting Vermonters’ investments in efficient renewable energy also allows them to invest the savings from those projects into our local economy, supporting our restaurants, stores and incredible outdoor opportunities. The report shows that switching from a gas vehicle to an electric vehicle, for instance, can save up to $10,000 in operations and maintenance over 150,000 miles — savings that will likely be spent elsewhere in the economy, rather than going overseas. Looking statewide, the report cites the American Lung Association’s finding that Vermont stands to save $313 million in total health and climate costs by transitioning to electric vehicles by 2050.
Supporting Vermonters’ investments in renewable energy supports Vermont’s economy. As EAN’s report shows, 78 cents of every dollar spent on fossil fuels leaves our state’s economy, rather than being put to use here at home. Using a locally owned credit union to invest those dollars on renewable fuel and clean electricity keeps more and more of those dollars in-state — two-to-four times as much as when we spend them on 10 percent imported fossil fuels.
EAN’s report emphasizes that the transportation and thermal sectors are the biggest energy users (86 percent of Vermont’s energy use) and emit the most greenhouse gases (over 70 percent of Vermont’s emissions). In order to reduce emissions and become more efficient in those sectors, we need a total energy approach. One of the best options we have available to get off fossil fuels for transportation and for heating and cooling our buildings is by using our renewable electricity to power electric vehicles and heat pumps. We also have the unique opportunity to sustainably manage our local forests and heat our homes with locally sourced wood pellets and chips through advanced wood heating.
That’s why VSECU supports low-interest, cost-effective financing options across the total energy spectrum. Our VGreen program supports renewable-energy projects and purchases like weatherization, solar installations and energy-efficient vehicles. We’ve offered this program since 2012 to help our members reduce their carbon emissions. It also helps borrowers looking to switch to an electric vehicle to unlock those savings. Our Heat Saver Loan supports weatherization projects to reduce energy loss in homes and buildings, and makes it affordable for members to switch to renewable heating sources like heat pumps or advanced wood heat (pellet stoves and boilers, for instance).
More recently, we’ve created the VGreen Money Market account to help Vermonters invest more and save more with renewable energy. One hundred percent of funds deposited in a VGreen Money Market account go to renewable-energy investments and guarantee a higher rate of savings than a traditional savings account.
We look forward to continuing to grow and expand these programs to speed our transition to a more financially and environmentally sustainable future. Our staff and our member-owners know that this is what Vermonters want, what Vermont needs, what our planet needs, and what will ultimately help the financial security of VSECU to enable us to support Vermont’s values long into the future.
Rob Miller is CEO of VSECU.